Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY BY DREISER FREE ONLINE NOTES
With Braley’s help, Clyde secures a room in a boarding house on Thorpe Street. He dines with the other boarders - all lower-class laborers - and afterwards goes out to Lycurgus’ main streets. He is surprised at the crowds on the streets in the early evening and notes that a better class of people seemed to frequent the streets and shops around Wykeagy Avenue. Clyde decides that he likes Lycurgus and will give his new job a shot. Meanwhile, Gilbert reports to his family at dinner of Clyde’s arrival --Samuel is not present, as he is on business in New York City. Clyde’s news is generally negative on Clyde - his mother is sympathetic with her son’s feelings, while his sisters are more skeptical of this opinion.
The next morning, Clyde arrives at the factory for his first day of work;
the doorman directs him to Old Jeff, the time-clock guard, who gives him
a locker. When Clyde leaves for the basement, the two men remark on how
Gilbert and Clyde look so much alike, enough that the doorman had initially
mistaken Clyde for Gilbert. The workers in the shrinking department are
friendly, respectful, and distant to Clyde, who misses home. He thinks
of Hortense and how he could impress her by his relations, if not his
current job, and how he would snub her if he ever had the chance.
Kemerer is unsure of what to make of Clyde, deciding he was being groomed
for better things. Clyde feels the same to be possible and, assuming a
superior and condescending attitude, confirms Kemerer’s suspicions. Thus,
it’s all about appearances --if one takes on the air of a superior, one
will be assumed to be superior. However, these are strongly drawn lines
of class antagonism.
Disliking the commonplace job in the shrinking department, Clyde is equally
disdainful of the boarding house of Mrs. Cuppy’s. However, Walter Dillard,
a young ambitious man who also boards at Cuppy’s, tries to cultivate a
friendship with Clyde upon finding out his relationship to the Griffiths.
Clyde, protective of the family name and aware of the consequences if
he makes any mis-steps in Lycurgus, initially keeps his distance from
Dillard, believing himself to be superior. Dillard keeps trying however,
and on a walk together invites Clyde to go out with him Sunday and go
dancing with a couple of girls. Clyde is hesitant, but strongly tempted.
Dillard understands and assures discretion for this private dance party.
Because of its various manufacturing companies, Lycurgus is a city that attracts workers from nearby areas, such as Walter Dillard - and, as we later learn, Roberta Alden and Grace Marr. Dillard makes more money and has a better family background than Clyde; however, he defers to Clyde because of his direct (if largely untapped) connection to the ruling class of Lycurgus. Once again, a social model of upward mobility is reinforced, as is the importance of appearance over reality.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017